Tuesday

10th Dec 2019

Nato in show of strength ahead of Warsaw summit

  • Anacaonda-16 will see, for the first time since WWII, German tanks cross the border into Poland (Photo: nato.int)

Nato has begun three military exercises - Anaconda-16, Baltops and Iron Wolf 2016 - designed to show it is ready to defend its eastern allies from Russia.

The Anaconda-16 war game in Poland is the largest of its kind since the end of the Cold War.

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  • Lavrov: "This will activate the Russian sovereign right to protect itself" (Photo: consiilium.europa.eu)

The 10-day drill involves 14,000 US soldiers, 12,000 Polish ones and up to 1,000 British troops out of a total of 31,000 personnel from 24 nations.

In one event on Tuesday, 1,130 paratroopers will practice landing in Torun, northern Poland. Other drills will see an emergency bridge built over the Wistula river and a simulated night-time assault by 35 attack helicopters.

It will also see, for the first time since WWII, German tanks cross the border into Poland.

The Baltops (Baltic Operations) exercise, which takes place every year and which also began on Monday, involves 4,500 troops in Nordic and Baltic countries.

It will include hundreds of soldiers from Finland and Sweden, which are not in Nato but which are cultivating closer ties because of Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

Iron Wolf 2016 involves 5,000 troops and will take place largely in Lithuania and Latvia.

The drills come ahead of a Nato summit in Warsaw in mid-July that will see the alliance firm up plans for a Russia-deterrent force in the region and that will see Montenegro join the mutual defence club.

The Russia deterrent force envisages new command centres and arms depots in the region.

At the same time, the US is finalising plans to switch on components of an anti-ballistic missile shield in Poland and in Romania. Poland itself is creating a 35,000-strong force of reservists.

Russia has spoken out against what it calls Nato’s build-up in the region.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin on a recent trip to Greece said people who host US anti-missile bases should get used to being in Russia’s "crosshairs." He is going to Finland later this summer.

Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday: “We do not hide that we have a negative attitude toward the Nato line of moving its military infrastructure to our borders, drawing other countries into military unit activities.

“This will activate the Russian sovereign right to protect itself with methods that are adequate for today's risks.”

Franz Klintsevich, the deputy head of the defence committee in the upper house of Russia’s parliament, went further. He told the Russia's Interfax agency that Nato was preparing a “global strike” against Russia.

Nato has countered by saying that Russia held more than 800 war games in the region last year, most of them unannounced in violation of international accords.

Some experts such as Ian Brzezinski, a former Pentagon official who now works for the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, have predicted that Russia will stage a provocation ahead of the Nato summit in Poland.

But Petr Pavel, a Czech general and senior Nato official, recently told EUobserver that such a move was unlikely.

“I don’t believe that, in the current circumstances, Russia will try to destabilise the [Nato] summit," he said at the Globsec security conference in Bratislava in April.

"They’re trying to be more open and to enter into a dialogue, so any bigger provocation wouldn’t suit that purpose.”

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